AN APPLE AND A MANGO
This past Christmas, apples were retailing cheaply in Guyana. A succulent apple could have been had for as low as $60 each. If you haggled you could have gotten a discount.
On the other hand, locally grown mangoes were not at a bargain, out of season. Five were selling for five hundred dollars. Trying haggling with the local vendors and you would have been advised to plant your own mango trees.
Given that apples have to be imported, paid for in US dollars and, taxes paid to bring them into the country, how is it that an apple could sell for less than a mango in a country where in certain areas, you can go to your neighbour and ask to pick a few mangoes off their tree and not have to pay a cent.
There were many overseas-based Guyanese visiting for the holidays. Many of them would have been horrified at the price of locally-grown mangoes relative to what an apple was going for. They would have, like so many others did, ask themselves how it is that in a country as big as Guyana, would foreign apples cost cheaper than locally grown mangoes at Christmas time.
The answers are self-evident. For one it is not the traditional mango season. But many of those overseas based Guyanese would have still found it hard to recall a time when they were growing up in Guyana when a mango, regardless of the season, could cost more an imported apple.
It is a fact that during the first few weeks of the mango season in Guyana, the price of mangoes is dog- cheap. You can get a mango for as cheap as $20. But then suddenly the price sky rockets even though the reaping of mangoes is still taking place.
So what explains this fact? What explains it is that massive tones of mangoes are being exported each month of the country to North America. These mangoes are being exported to satisfy the insatiable appetite for these juicy fruits by the West Indian community which can absorb all the mangoes that are grown locally.
So one of the main reasons why mangoes are so scarce in Guyana throughout the year and why the prices are so high is because of the large volumes that are being exported. And the more trees that are planted, the more mangoes produced, then the more are available for exports.
Last year Guyana’s exports of non-traditional crops, particularly fruits and vegetables continued to b impressive. In excess of 20,000 tons of produce were exported to various parts of the world, showing that vast potential that exists not just for the export of agriculture but also for the prospects of new entrepreneurs interested in finding markets for Guyana’s agricultural products.
There was a time in Guyana when Guyana’s non- traditional exports were negligible. People were not producing enough to feed the local population much less to export. Today that situation is being reversed and with air cargo transportation, fresh produce can leave here in the morning and arrive in New York the same day and hit the shelves of the West Indian stores the very next day.
This happened not because of the government’s Grow More Food campaign but because of the entrepreneurship of Guyanese businessmen, many of whom in the early days were small traders. It was a direct benefit of foreign travel. People went overseas, they saw opportunities and they took the risk and began to trade in small quantities. It all started with small traders and today many of them have become large traders and have done very well.
It is therefore surprising given the demand for food in the world that more young people are not taking up the challenge and sought out new markets. There is money to be made through exports.
So why is this younger generation not learning from the older folks who led the way in opening this thriving market for Guyanese produce?
Part of the problem is that things are too easy for the younger generation. They have little or no knowledge of hard times. They have grown up in an age when their parents can spend more money today buying a cellular phone for them than was earned for an entire year during the hard times.
They are looking also for others to create opportunities for themselves. When they seek out the outside world, it is merely to buy things to bring back to sell in Guyana. They are not trying to export anything to earn money. And this is the problem in Guyana. Things are too easy for this generation.
Many of them if they choose to, do not have to work and so when they go into the markets and they hardly even notice the contradiction of an apple selling cheaper than a mango. And if they cannot see that how is it they are going to see that this situation presents an opportunity for them to make money.